One of the biggest and the newest trends to ascend the ranks in the Information Technology industry is “Big Data.” Big Data is fast gaining the popularity and preference among vendors and customers alike. Much like Cloud Computing, Big Data has taken the IT community by storm and will become an essential service utilized or offered by many companies. Though Big Data has its detractors, who worry about privacy in an increasingly digitized world, practically every major business sector is toying with the idea of Big Data as the key to solving important problems in and across disciplines.
Simply put, Big Data is a collection of large and complex data that cannot be processed on a single machine, but needs a cluster of servers to be processed. It is about looking at information in entirely new ways in order to improve whatever it is that a company or agency does. If managed effectively, big data can be a huge competitive advantage, enabling businesses to leverage a wealth of information to benefit decision-making processes.
Additionally, for government agencies across multiple sectors that have technology-enabled collection of vast pools of data, Big Data services offer the opportunity to finally organize and analyze this information. For example, Freddie Mac was able to leverage Big Data processes to quickly identify those homes affected and under duress during Hurricane Sandy and within a week the agency took effective measures to stop possible foreclosure proceedings on those borrowers. This would not have been possible before the era of Big Data. By comparison, during Hurricane Katrina, Freddie Mac was unable to pinpoint impacted properties in a timely manner.
Some agencies are even going a step further in trying to become more transparent by standardizing their processes and making raw data more easily accessible to public. The Government stands to benefit significantly from properly analyzed Big Data. With the amount of public transit, healthcare and public-safety data, governments have access to countless ways the public sector could use this information to save money and improve services. By efficiently handling Big Data challenges and using analytics to effectively unlock key information, agencies can derive a variety of benefits, from improving the way they presently utilize IT to discovering new services and capabilities.
Some of the advantages of using Big Data and analytic tools in the Federal agencies are:
- Make better decisions more quickly. Instead of merely guessing, decision makers can use analytics tools and other technologies to process data, improving understanding of situations and allowing enhanced solutions to be implemented.
- Forecast outcomes. Gives agencies the ability to predict results by allowing the user to play out scenarios under controlled circumstances and to identify correlations and trends in underlying data and more.
- Eliminate waste, fraud and abuse. Identifying unnecessary steps and inefficiencies in processes, an organization can minimize internal waste. Also some agencies, given the sensitive nature of their business information, can use Big Data to identify and eliminate fraud and abuse by the people or parties they serve or monitor.
- Improve productivity. With the right set of analytic tools, even nontechnical users can work with large data sets to find information, deliver better services or make decisions that support the mission.
- Enhance transparency and service. Big Data allows agencies to make data available to the public, standardizing processes and making the system more transparent. It also allows agencies to offer information as a service, whether it’s online tax records, census information, weather data, mortgage information or more.
- Reduce security threats and crime. Analyzing Big Data is key to helping police, homeland security officials, intelligence analysts and others pinpoint patterns and other hidden information to help identify specific threats.
Big Data is not just a trend for larger companies or government agencies to adopt; small and mid-sized businesses are also feeling the pressure of managing and analyzing their data, thus giving leverage and competitive advantage to the companies that effectively use and manage Big Data. Several experts term Big Data as a new engine for innovation in the IT industry and recognize it as one of the game changer technologies that will transform the future.